Tests show elevated levels of radon in Portland Public Schools

Beaumont Middle School (KATU News photo)

Portland Public Schools says a recent round of radon testing found elevated levels of the radioactive gas in 120 rooms district-wide.

A memo to the school board written by David Hobbs, senior director of facilities and asset management, says the rooms are located in 26 buildings and include classrooms, cafeterias, offices, gymnasiums and a principal's office.

Nine rooms of six schools tested had levels above the Environmental Protection Agency's higher action level. Those schools are Meek, Beaumont, Whitman, Roseway Heights, Lent and Marysville.

Hobbs said they chose those 26 buildings because they had all tested high for radon during the last round of testing, which was conducted 15 years ago.

The naturally-occurring gas can cause lung cancer.

Recently-passed legislation requires all schools to submit radon testing plan by 2016. Schools then have until 2021 to conduct those tests.

Portland Public Schools spokesperson Christine Miles said they came up with a plan and did their testing in March.

Hobbs says the district received the results Wednesday.

Per EPA guidelines, he says the district will schedule follow-up tests for the beginning the 2016-17 school year for the 120 rooms with elevated levels. And for the six schools listed above, follow-up tests will begin Monday, June 4.

Radon comes from openings in a building's foundation. Hobbs said it can be drawn in because of a pressure difference between the building and the ground. In his note, Hobbs talks about three EPA-approved techniques to combat radon. Those will be further discussed in a meeting.

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